Monday, 20 May 2013

Regards to the Omelas

Sitting in the sunshine and light breeze on the shore of Lake Erie this balmy May 24 weekend, I can't help but remember the ones who walk away from the Omelas.
The ones who walk away from the Omelas are no ordinary people. They are a group in a (fictional) storey who leave a euphoric community after learning that their paradise only exists because of the hardships of someone more vulnerable. I can relate.
 To understand, I urge you read 'The ones who walk away from the Omelas,' by Ursula LeGuin (a mature read).
 After reading this, I was asked which person I would be: one who walked away, or the one who continued to live with the Omelas. (Feel free to ask yourself the same question.) I am not sure if staying or leaving is more effective but it is my nature to take some course of action. The Strong, Free Happy tour is part of how I'm doing that.
Probably the most common question I get about the Strong Free Happy tour is 'Why." My response when people ask about my motivations is really a bunch of things including academic and professional background plus personal experiences. Above all though, the driving force is the desire to share the mental health strategy that has been so beneficial in my own life.
Over the past few years, my eyes have been wrenched open to a select few of the  cruelties in our world. And I believe these select few are quite moderate in comparison to what else is out there. As the protected and caring person I am,  I was struck by these experiences- and their prevalence.  Like those in the storey, I  felt confused, shameful, frustrated, restless, helpless and hopeless. This led to anger with myself and those closest to me, plus a deep sadness.
I had never wanted to be a person who simply watched and accepted the hardships of others. I hated myself for being so dependant yet restless and bitter.  I wanted to be someone who took some kind of action, but it was really hard to function. Lasting symptoms of depression (3 months intense homesickness, followed by ~ 8 months helplessness, hopelessness, sadness etc with some highs here and there) led me to see a counsellor and eventually a psychiatrist. Medication was an option but I didn't want that. I wanted to be able to help myself so I went home with a list of lifestyle strategies. Journaling and other readings helped me to comprehend my feelings while exercise helped with my confidence, optimistic outlook and lasting interruptions in those vicious cycles of negative thought. Knowing the pain I and so many others have been though, having bounced back to a more understanding, optimistic and thankful self, plus having the freedom/responsibility to share these experiences leads me to the Strong, Free and Happy tour for Mental Health.
So, on this beautiful day, I plan a bike ride across the country to share some lessons learned. 
I hope you enjoy this and further musings.

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